"Do what you love. Love what you do. Take less. Give more. Never quit. Never follow. Be passionate. Be bold. Be honest. Respect people. Respect the environment. Always bring out the best in your family and friends. Change is the only constant. Fear is an illusion. Attitude is everything."
Sonnie was born on November 15th, 1979 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a professional climber (see his sponsors webpage HERE) and travels the globe climbing the most famous and hardest routes. His more well known achievements are on traditionally protected routes, but he is no slouch on bolts, having climbed F9a and over 60 routes of F8b+ or harder. Sonnie has now completed 'The Trilogy' of possibly the hardest traditionally protected routes in the world; Cobra Crack, The Path and finally Rhapsody.
The Path (5.14 R, 130') follows a steep obvious crack peppered with crimps, and has five distinct cruxes: four 5.13 sections divided by positive rests, and a V10 boulder problem over scary gear (a micro cam and some thin nuts) to end the difficulties. The last hard move Trotter describes as an enormous iron cross requiring a "sideways lunge to an edge the size of a broken pencil" that tweaks your shoulders. That last move marks the end of any potential gear placements until the anchor thirty feet above. Although the unprotected section involves easier 5.12 climbing and has a clean fall, the sheer distance and thin gear at the crux compelled Trotter to give the climb an R rating.
Trotter removed the bolts from this abandoned project before climbing it, in what he called "The best style I could imagine" - placing all traditional gear on lead. This was viewed as controversial by many climbers, as the route is now R rated - meaning it is run out and potentially dangerous.
Chopping the bolts "was a hard decision to make at first because the climb is now rated R," Trotter admitted. Having redpointed The Path cleanly, and having received positive feedback from the local community, Trotter continues to stand by his action; "it was ultimately the best choice to make," he said.
Full Alpinist Report HERE
Cobra Crack was a different type of route - hard, tight finger-locking, with reasonable protection, but desperate moves and a very high sport grade. The route was immortalised in the excellent film 'First Ascent' (View a trailer here: posingproductions.com ).
Judging by his other ascents, Sonnie is obviously experienced when it comes to hard red-pointing above dubious traditional gear. What did he think of the grade of Rhapsody?
From his blog:
"Rhapsody is a good route, actually no, it's a terrific route, it climbs so well, it's actually fun to fall off of. There is not a painful or scary move on it, it's a brilliant line... Rhapsody is basically a 5.13c/d (f8a+/8b) into a V10/V11 and a cheeky one at that.".
That would land Rhapsody in the F8c+ bracket - exactly what Dave MacLeod suggested when he climbed it. How does this transfer in to our E system? It is very difficult to tell, as the E is for 'on sight', but MacLeod is one of the most qualified to comment at this level and he doesn't seem to be far off the mark with his original E11 - I would guess we will have to wait for a few years for this route to be climbed on sight - however it does look like a contender for a ground-up ascent.
Jack: So this is your second trip to the UK - have you enjoyed it? Would you consider coming back and having a tour around?
Sonnie: Yes, my second time. Last year we climbed for two days at Burbage, we soloed a few E5's and top roped a couple of E8's between rain storms. WE LOVED IT. I love it. Incredible stone. I was planning to go back this year, but I wanted to finish Rhaps and I needed to be here when the weather hit. Which it did. I hate unfinished business. I sent in perfect conditions, gale-force winds.
Jack: You've now ticked Cobra Crack, The Path (that looks like a really good route), and Rhapsody. What is next?!
Sonnie: Yes, all three of those routes have been truly memorable. The Path took me 10 days and is slightly easier in technical grades (at 5.14R it is at least F8b+ - Jack), longer in length with a bigger fall potential, Cobra Crack maybe 15-20 days of work and can't be compared to anything else on this planet and Rhapsody 14-18 days of effort, a power endurance problem, a glorious line. I have not been training this spring, I went to India and did a lot of beach stuff and yoga, so I was slightly disappointed with my level of power when I arrived. I am stronger than last year, for sure, but not as strong as I should be. I've been in cruiser mode. I want to hang out in Squamish and boulder for the summer and do some hangboarding to strengthen my tips.
Jack: I take it you are a full time climber - we don't really have many of those in the UK. Could you describe what that is like? - The pressures, the freedoms?
Sonnie: I have never felt an ounce of pressure to climb. The only pressure I feel comes from myself, not wanting to disappoint my family, my loved ones or the people around the world who are pulling for me. I am sponsored because I love climbing, it's not the other way around. My sponsors help me if I ask really nicely for it, but it's like running a small business, you need to be able to justify the investment, and act in a professional manner. So far it's worked out really well for me, because I never just popped out of nowhere, I was always doing more and more each year, out of love, so the growth of my sponsorship has come very gradually and I've never felt pressure, or uncomfortable, they trust me to do what I love and we have a very mutual respect and a buddy/buddy relationship.
Sonnie: Probably Freeway 5.11c/d in Squamish. It's 10 pitches of pure finger lock heaven. It's my dream route for sure. I'd solo it if I had the balls.
Jack: As you progress with your climbing, do you feel more bogged down with the technicalities of it all, or have you managed to keep hold of the early feelings and experiences that first brought you to the sport? What were those experiences and feelings?
Sonnie: Freedom, fear, joy, fresh air, challenge, good friends, a cool breeze, a bottle of wine and a pretty girl. I've been climbing since 1996, and not a single thing has changed. I went to India for three months with my girlfriend Lydia and I climbed for only three weeks, 3 or 4 days per week, nothing serious. I wanted a break this winter and I've never been asked to do anything I don't want to do, I only do things because I am inspired. If I wasn't inspired there wouldn't be much point eh? This won't be my last time to the UK, Glen Coe and many, many others are high on my list, I love it here.
A bit about Sonnie from his own website: www.sonnietrotter.com
The first time I ever tied into a rope was at an outdoor festival in Toronto called the CNE. I was almost 16 years old. Joe Rockhead's Climbing Gym set up an artificial wall for spectators, tourists and little punks like myself trying to blow off some steam. Since my sisters had gone on all the rides and I wasn't in the mood for roller coasting - I decided to try a stout overhanging wall dubbed, 'K2'. With each grip I felt more and more alone and only when I reached the top did I realize how high I was. I've been chasing that high ever since.
Upon graduation, I hit the open road for the rocky mountains of Colorado. I don't think I've been home for more than three or four months ever since. Although I love and miss my family greatly, I will never regret leaving behind the urban sprawl to explore a world of uncertainty, a world of great character, raw beauty and individual expression.
During the long winter months I have a habit of gravitating towards warmer climates so I can climb, camp and chase the endless summer. I've explored Mexico, France, Spain, Malta and I'm leaving soon for Australia. In addition, I have spent countless months traversing the lower 48 from Texas to California and in 2002 I made a successful five-month (coast to coast) trip across Canada. My goal was to spend as little money as possible while visiting each and every significant climbing area and small town along the way, from Halifax to Victoria. I read somewhere that life is a great book, and for those who don't travel only read one page.
One thing I have come to realize through climbing and exploring is that fear is an illusion. No matter were we go, there will always be good people around a warm fire, there will always be a friend to share with a cold beer and there will always be a new adventure lurking somewhere over them there hills. So enjoy!
Sonnie on The Path
Sonnie Bouldering at Lizard's Mouth
Is it possible to improve your climbing without even trying?
Jack Geldard thinks that a few small changes in your climbing... Read more